Jo from Positive Pause has written a guest post for Mrs Mummypenny readers. The Menopause. I know its coming, I have no idea when. And I know very little about it, apart from the odd discussion on Loose Women and chats with a few of my close friends going through it. And those are normally horror stories. If I am 100% honest I am scared.
Positively Perimenopausal, Menopausal or Beyond?
Hormones! From the minute we hit puberty, they have an impact on our lives – whilst some of us can’t live with them, it’s guaranteed that we’ll all eventually live without them! Some women won’t notice any difference as they ‘sail through’ menopause, but the majority of us (three in four women) will experience a range of symptoms with some going through very challenging experiences. None of us has the same menopause experience, but lots in common.
What is menopause?
The word ‘menopause’ is often incorrectly used. It is just one day in a woman’s life, 12 months to the day of her last period, with the ‘average’ age being around 52. I would argue that ‘perimenopause’ and ‘post-menopause’ are the words we should be thinking about. Perimenopause is the period leading up to ‘menopause’ when your body starts to make adjustments as the ovaries are producing less oestrogen and progesterone. These busy little hormones have, until now, helped to keep a woman’s body fertile, tissues plump, bones and hearts healthy.
As a happily post-menopausal woman, I can categorically say that it would have been more than helpful to know about the impact of gradually depleting hormone levels on my body and mind before it happened! (For most of us, it is a ‘gradual’ reduction, unless you experience an early or surgical menopause leading to immediate menopause with no time to prepare). Whilst my experience was by no means debilitating, it was at times, confusing, at times miserable, and could have been better managed by me had I known what was happening.
What are the first symptoms?
For many, hot flushes spring all too quickly to mind, throwing us off the scent of other symptoms. When in your early to mid-forties you find yourself: staring at the bedroom ceiling at 3am, getting increasingly anxious and catastrophising life’s events as sleep passes you by, feeling more fatigued, snappy or tearful and finding that your libido has slipped south of Dover, it may be that these are signs of perimenopause.
Given that until fairly recently no-one talked about perimenopause, it’s still debatable that enough women know that symptoms of perimenopause can kick in up to 10 years (yes, 10!), before that final period, they fail to join up the dots, recognise perimenopause and take the right action.
What can you do to improve symptoms menopause?
The good news is that there’s plenty that can be done to mitigate some of the 34 plus symptoms of menopause. Perimenopause is a time to carry out a personal audit of health and lifestyle which for some, may mean making little tweaks, for others seismic shifts, to diet and lifestyle.
Cutting down (or out) on those well-established bad foods, drinks, and habits that we have, and adding a healthy diet, relaxation techniques and regular weight bearing exercise, can help to ease some of the symptoms of menopause and may have a positive effect on overall health, stress management, heart and bone health. Hearts and bones no longer have the protection of oestrogen, so even those menopause ‘sailors’ should be aware of what’s happening inside and look at keeping them strong and healthy.
Where can you find more information to help you manage perimenopause and menopause?
There are a number of online resources including our own site www.positivepause.co.uk sharing evidence-based information and guidance on how to get on top of symptoms, although none of these sites should be used in place of consulting your own doctor. Women’s experiences at their local GP practice are inconsistent. In advance of a visit to the GP we advise women to familiarise themselves with the very readable NICE guidance on diagnosis and management of menopause, including the long term risks and benefits of HRT, only issued to doctors in 2015.
Talk to your friends and work colleagues, the more we talk about menopause, the less ‘unmentionable’ it becomes. If you can’t talk to friends, find your local Menopause Cafe, they host discussion groups in local cafes where women share stories and ask their own questions about menopause. Find out from your mum when she went through her menopause, it’s likely that it’ll happen to you at a similar time, but it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same symptoms.
In a time when we live, love and work longer, post menopause, I truly believe that the more women know before perimenopause appears in their life, the more informed choices they can make, helping to make this a more positive experience. At PositivePause we say about life beyond menopause, ‘It’s no longer about the time of the month, it’s now the time of your life’. Arm yourself with knowledge that can only help!
Summary from Mrs Mummypenny
A great read, thank you so much Jo. Heading right over to your website to read more. You are so right the more we talk about it to our friends, the more normalised it becomes. Please share this post far and wide.
My synopsis, I am still scared, but at least informed. I have no idea when perimenopause will start, I can’t even ask my mum who died a very long time ago. I am going to hazard a guess, she had a hysterectomy at the age of around 47. I was born when she was 42 and I seem to remember a hospital visit when I was young. So maybe that is an indication of when it might happen.